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Careful review of coal gas plant will continue for next two years

Recently, an opinion on The Forum's editorial page expressed the need for information on our proposed South Heart, N.D., coal gasification plant (commentary, Feb. 7).

Recently, an opinion on The Forum's editorial page expressed the need for information on our proposed South Heart, N.D., coal gasification plant (commentary, Feb. 7).

I think it is important for everyone involved to understand that the development of this project will be a process that has just begun and will occur over the next two years. Any questions still unanswered, even those involving the environment, will be answered through the thorough permitting process conducted by the state of North Dakota, under the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency and the North Dakota Public Service Commission, prior to approval of the project.

That's not to say that we don't have a great deal of information about the project already.

For example, we know that the plant will not be visible from the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. While the exact height of the plant's stack isn't finalized, the preliminary indications are that it will be substantially below the 400-foot level necessary to be seen from the national park.

We also know that there will be no giant pits or dry water wells in the region's future. We are required by law to reclaim the land and replace any lost well water. The suggestion of this by some is just an attempt to scare people and breed distrust and fear.

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We also know that all future coal development in North Dakota has to occur in western North Dakota. That's where the more than 800-year reserve exists. Current coal country reserves are already largely committed.

We fully intend to provide all interested parties the information they seek as it becomes available. We have a proven track record on this point. When our interest in South Heart was first announced in 2003, we conducted a series of public and small group meetings to gather input and share information. We have already held several events for the press, local elected officials, business leaders, landowners and the general public on the current proposal. And more are scheduled.

Of course, we recognize that no amount of information will satisfy some. Groups such as the Dakota Resource Council are vehemently opposed to all coal development anywhere. But once you learn about our positive economic benefits and our responsible approach to the environment, we believe most people will agree that the South Heart project is a welcome addition to North Dakota.

Voss, Bismarck, is vice president of Great Northern Power Development.

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